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Cinders by Michelle Davidson Argyle

I just finished reading Michelle Davidson Argyle's highly anticipated novella, Cinders, which is now available in ebook and paper formats. Nice work, Michelle!

This was an interesting continuance of the well-known Cinderella tale. Its dark tone and bittersweetness resonate with old versions of the Cinderella story and its sometimes horrific variants. But this is not such a "grim" story; it has just enough grit and heartache to serve as a satisfying counterpoint to the sweet, cute versions of Cinderella popularized in contemporary children's films and books.

Argyle's prose is lovely but clean and smooth. She gives just enough detail in a short format to create a rich backdrop containing many elements of the familiar and the unexpected, of fantasy and realism.

The plot hinges upon Cinderella's love choices, but it is more of a literary story than a romance. Argyle's Cinderella is neither a strong, brave heroine nor a saccharine Mary Sue. She is a very real, conflicted woman with her own desires, struggles, and uncertainties. On the surface, her journey seems motivated by finding her one true love, but it becomes more apparent that her search is a larger one, for purpose and her place in the world.

One of my favorite things about this story is how complex and psychologically real the characters feel, contrasted with their fantastic, magical setting. Some readers have been surprised by Argyle's characterization of Cinderella, feeling that she is not likeable enough. Certainly she is not the girl portrayed by Disney. But as someone who loves both ancient and modern stories, I found her imperfect nature to be both realistic and true to many narrative traditions.

Argyle's take on the Cinderella story is a fresh and new one, but it contains echoes of the ancient. Her Cinderella character reminds me of female folk heroines from Eastern European and Native American traditions, among others. Unlike most of the flat leading ladies in the writings of the Brothers Grimm, Argyle's Cinderella is not uniformly humble and meek. She is adventurous, curious, passionate, and sometimes weary, confused, or fearful. Like the figure Kochinnenako, Yellow Woman of the American Southwest, Argyle's Cinderella is both familiar and unusual. Like Yellow Woman, she chooses to break the rules, and her choice transforms her entire world with the power to bring salvation, destruction, or a mixture of both.

Cinders is a fast-paced, exciting read with depth and tension. It was a delight to read. And I hear that Michelle Davidson Argyle has ideas for a couple more fairy tale novellas in the works! Watch for more fantastic, well crafted treats by this imaginative debut author.


  1. I absolutely LOVE what you have to say about Cinderella echoing the ancient. That just gave me goosebumps. Thank you for this fantastic review!!!

  2. I agree with your review. You echoed many of my thoughts of the story... Very well put.

  3. I really, really need to get my (virtual) hands on that novella!!!


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